H.E. Anar Imanov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Croatia : Strategic partnership of two countries

Azerbaijan is a key supplier of crude oil to Croatia. 

Energy cooperation is one of the main fields in the relations between Azerbaijan and Croatia, for Diplomacy&Commerce says H.E. Anar Imanov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Croatia. Azerbaijan indeed plays an important role in providing European energy security. This role of Azerbaijan was also underlined by European Commission and in July 2022, during the visit of Ms. Ursula von der Leyen there was signed “A Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Partnership in the field of energy between the European Union represented by the European Commission and the Republic of Azerbaijan”.

  1. How would you rate the relations between Croatia and Azerbaijan today and where do you see room for further improvement of those relations?

The relations between Azerbaijan and Croatia are excellent and are indeed in high level. Two countries are enjoying the relations of strategic partnership since signing of “Zagreb Declaration on strategic partnership and friendly relations between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Croatia” in 2013. In recent years the development of the mutually beneficial cooperation between Azerbaijan and Croatia has been significantly activated. Mutual contacts, visits, exchanges including those in highest level significantly contributed to development of bilateral relations between two countries. In this regard, I have to especially underline contacts between our leaders, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, H.E. Mr. Andrej Plenković. In 2023 they met twice, once in January in Davos and second time during the official visit of Prime Minister Plenković to Azerbaijan in November, 2023.

Discussions held during these meetings made a significant impetus to further development of Azerbaijan-Croatia relations. There were of course more mutual visits including on the level of Deputy Chairmen of Parliaments, Ministers, State Secretaries and the goal of both sides is clear to strengthen and deepen relations of friendship and strategic partnership between our countries. Of course there is always room for improvement. Both sides are set to first of all improve economy-trade cooperation. Our governments have strong intention to diversify economy cooperation and to identify and develop new fields in trade and economy. I am pretty optimistic that we will see positive outcomes of this work soon.

  1. Are there any areas where the two countries have open issues and what are they, and if so, how do you think they could be resolved?

There is only one open issue between our countries and it is what else can be done to further deepen and strengthen bilateral cooperation. If to look at the intensity of mutual visits and important events between our countries, one can see how both sides work hard on bringing our nations even closer.


  1. When it comes to the economy as an important branch for both countries, what do the numbers show us? What is the level of investment, in which areas, in what way?

Well first of all numbers show us that Azerbaijan is a key supplier of crude oil to Croatia and by this plays an important role on supporting Croatia’s energy security. Moreover, the numbers show us that the main field of economy and trade cooperation is energy, what means that there is a necessity to develop bilateral relations in other spheres, to diversify economy and trade cooperation. Both sides are tirelessly working on this and I have no doubt that soon we will see the results. Investment cooperation does not meet much of the potential of our countries and this is also a field which both sides intend to develop.


  1. Prime Minister Plenković visited Baku with an official delegation last year and met with the highest officials. It was said that Azerbaijan is strategically important for Croatia. How do you interpret that statement?


Indeed, Azerbaijan is strategically important for Croatia as Croatia is strategically important for Azerbaijan. We are strategic partners, we support each other in international fora. We are true friends. Each of our countries play an important role in the regions we located and has a lot to offer each other.  During the visit of Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Plenković in November,2023 to Azerbaijan opportunities for developing of relations between Azerbaijan and Croatia in all fields, as well as energy cooperation, which is considered to be the locomotive of our bilateral economic relations, was discussed in detail, and it was decided that the parties would soon hold consultations to exchange views for the development prospects of cooperation in the field of energy in general and gas in particular. And on instructions from the leadership of our countries that a few months after the visit, the parties held in Baku the 3rd meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on economic cooperation, during which representatives of ministries and organizations of the two countries discussed in detail measures to implement the instructions of our leaders. Cooperation in de-mining was also discussed. We appreciate Croatia’s gift of specially trained dogs for use in demining activities to Azerbaijan. Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Andrej Plenković’s visit to Azerbaijan definitely contributed to the development of friendly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries.


  1. Azerbaijan supplies gas to a huge number of European countries, because at the moment when the supply of Russian gas was suspended or reduced, many European countries turned to Azerbaijan. Croatia is very interested in the Adriatic-Ionian gas pipeline. How far have we come in the implementation of these plans?

Azerbaijan and EU have been successfully cooperating in energy sphere for decades. Azerbaijan has proved to be a reliable partner for Europe ensuring an uninterrupted supply of crude oil and gas notwithstanding challenges of different nature. Azerbaijan recognizes its role in extending its cooperation with Europe on securing additional gas supplies under unprecedentedly challenging circumstances, but considers that engagement not in the context of replacing gas volumes of whatever origin, but rather in the context of contributing to security of supply arrangements and energy transition process.

Adriatic-Ionian gas pipeline is a big project which needs time and investment to start to be operational in near future. Azerbaijan has been investing in its infrastructure for many years. During the last few years, several states of the Southeast Europe region managed to connect to the Southern Gas Corridor through the upgrading of interconnectors, thereby starting to receive Azerbaijani gas. Hope in soonest future gas from Azerbaijan will reach Croatia as well. In any cases this issue should be a subject of discussions between relevant organisations of both sides.


  1. Croatia offered to help in the process of demining the territory that was affected by the war. How significant is Croatia’s experience to you and how far has this entire process come, is it perhaps over?

Azerbaijan is bearing the brunt of a 30-year long conflict and occupation of its lands by Armenia, suffering from mine pollution problem and stands among the most mine-polluted countries of the world. According to initial estimates, roughly 12 percent of the country’s territory is polluted by 1.5 million mines and an unknown number of unexploded ordnances.

Since the end of the war in 2020, 361 of our citizens, mostly civilians, have fallen victim to mine explosion, resulting in 68 deaths and 293 severe injuries. Overall, since the beginning of Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan, over 3400 of our citizens have suffered from mines, including 358 children and 38 women. The steady increase in the number of mine victims is associated with Armenia’s refusal to provide the accurate maps of the mines it planted across Azerbaijan’s territory, and with placing booby traps along the roads, cemeteries, and other civilian facilities located behind the former line of contact. From 2020 to 2023, new mine zones were created stretching up to 500 kilometers, new mines had been planted in Azerbaijan. Responsibility for that rests with Armenia.

Unfortunately, Croatia, like Azerbaijan, faced the problem of landmines, and despite the passage of more than 30 years, the territory of the country has not yet been completely cleared. As far as I am aware, next year we can expect that the demining activities will be completed in Croatia. There is a large number of experienced companies in Croatia involved in demining field. Although our country cooperates with our Croatian friends in the field of demining, we can increase the volume of collaboration in next few years.


  1. What is current situation in relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and what are prospects of reaching a peace between two countries?

In autumn of 2020, as a result of the 44-day Patriotic War, Azerbaijan liberated its territories and thereby ensured the implementation of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, which demanded urgent, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Azerbaijani territories. One of the main priorities for Azerbaijan is peace and stability in the South Caucasus. Therefore, when the Second Karabakh War ended Azerbaijani side, despite suffering and losses it faced, despite of complete destruction caused by Armenia in occupied Azerbaijani territories, put forward the proposal of signing of a peace treaty based on 5 principles of international law including mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty. Currently negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia are continuing. In April 2024 extremely important event happened in relations between two sides, when Azerbaijan and Armenia started delimitation and demarcation of state border as a first result of which four Azerbaijani villages which were occupied by Armenia in the beginning of 90s have been returned to Azerbaijan. It was first time when Armenian leadership officially admitted the fact of occupation of Azerbaijani territory and first time when Armenia peacefully agreed to return territories occupied by it. I hope that in soonest future thousands of Azerbaijanis forcefully expelled from those villages will finally return to their homes. So, the mentioned event is significant development in peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia. I hope more to come.